Gender Balance in Champier
Symphorien Champier’s The Ship of Virtuous Ladies is generally considered one of the earliest contributions to the pro-woman side of the French Renaissance version of the querelle des femmes, the cultural debate over the nature and status of women. Heavily influenced by the work of Ficino, Book 4 helps popularize Ficinian Neoplatonism in France, setting the stage for later representations of male-female love. Yet, unexpectedly, love and desire between men plays a major role in Book 4. While this section of the text purports to teach men and women how to love each other virtuously, Champier also includes a lengthy story illustrating “the power of love of one man for another man.” With its love triangles and its gender complexities, the adaptation from Boccaccio’s Decameron rejects the possibility of Ficinian male-male eroticism as it creates a “balance” model of gender by which male-male and male-female love coexist. Disease is caused by a lack of gender balance whose symptoms require a realignment of gendered desire. This curative realignment for Champier, trained as a doctor and a philosopher, pertains especially to his vision of a balanced France, as distinguished from Italy.
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